Primary Day: Five storylines to watch in Indiana, Ohio and North Carolina
Voters in Indiana, Ohio and North Carolina head to the polls today -- the first major primary day of the 2010 election season. Below are five storylines to keep an eye on in that trio of states as the votes get counted tonight.
1. Ohio 'Mo or No: Ohio Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher has been one of the biggest disappointments of this election so far for Senate Democrats. He has struggled badly to distance himself from badly underfunded Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner in the primary and has woefully underperformed in his own fundraising as well.
But, a Quinnipiac poll released Monday showed Fisher with a 43 percent to 23 percent edge over Brunner, suggesting that the lieutenant governor was headed to a relatively pedestrian win today.
A convincing victory -- along the margins that the Q poll suggests -- could give Fisher a bit of badly-needed momentum as he moves into the general election against former Rep. Rob Portman (R).
Despite Fisher's struggles, polling puts him even or slightly ahead of Portman -- a trend line that has to be encouraging for Democrats. Fisher needs to show that he has fixed the problems that plagued his campaign for much of 2009 and the best way to do that is to put a big number on the board tonight.
2. Wither DeMint: South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint (R) has drawn massive amounts of national media attention for his willingness to cross his party leadership when it comes to endorsing in contested primaries.
DeMint's "go it alone" approach to primaries gets its first real test today as conservative state Sen. Marlin Stutzman seeks to unseat establishment-backed favorite Dan Coats, a former senator.
Expecting Stutzman to win after the DeMint endorsement may be too high a bar -- after all, Stutzman was dead in the water before DeMint endorsed him last week -- but if he finishes third (behind Coats and former Rep. John Hostettler) it won't be a great moment for the South Carolina Republican.
DeMint has a handful of tests coming up over the next few months as underdogs like California state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore and Weld County prosecutor Ken Buck face voters in primaries. Poor finishes by one (or both) men will reinforce the widespread belief among establishment Republicans that there is more smoke than fire when it comes to DeMint's political operation and ability to deliver.
That said, DeMint was a very early backer of former Florida state House Speaker Marco Rubio and we all know how that turned out.
3. Incumbents in trouble: There has been much debate in political circles about just how strong the anti-incumbent sentiment is out in the country. That theory will get a good test today as two Republican House Members in Indiana -- Mark Souder and Dan Burton -- face serious primary challenges.
Souder, who has a reputation in Republican circles for running less-than-stellar campaigns, is the more endangered of the two as car dealer Bob Thomas has dumped more than $200,000 of his own money into the race.
And, Souder appeared to signal that he would definitely not seek re-election in 2012 in an interview with political analyst Brian Howey -- an unforced error that Thomas quickly pounced on.
Thomas -- like many Republican primary challengers -- has also scored points in hitting Souder for his vote in favor of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) in late 2008.
Burton, who has held the 5th district since 1982, is no stranger to serious primary races; in 2008 he won the Republican nod with just 52 percent of the vote. This cycle there are a number of well-credentialed challengers including Brose McVey, who ran unsuccessfully in the 7th district several cycles ago, former state Rep. Luke Messer and 2008 primary candidate John McGoff. Burton's saving grace may be that the field looking to oust him is so big that he will be able to win with a relatively small share of the Republican electorate.
If either Souder (more likely) or Burton (less likely) go down, it will draw significant national attention to the anti-incumbent storyline. And, with Utah Sen. Bob Bennett (R) fighting for his political life at the state's convention this weekend, we could be looking at a major emerging narrative if either Souder or Burton fall.
4. Getting the "right" nominee: There are a handful of House races in Indiana, North Carolina and Ohio where Republicans believe that the result of today's primaries will determine whether or not the seat is competitive in the fall.
In Ohio, Republicans see businessman Jim Renacci as their strongest candidate to compete against Rep. John Boccieri (D) but he faces a real fight in the form of two-time nominee Matt Miller. State Sen. Bob Gibbs is regarded as the preferred Republican nominee against Rep. Zack Space (D) in the 18th but that, too, is something of a jump ball for the Republican nod.
In Indiana, national Republicans regard cardiologist Larry Bucshon as their strongest nominee but he faces seven(!) other GOP candidates in the open 8th district race. North Carolina's 8th district, which is currently held by Rep. Larry Kissell (D), is seen as a longshot Republican opportunity but only if someone other than contractor Tim D'Annunzio wins the party's nomination, according to an informed party source.
Establishment Republicans, particularly on the House side, have been loathe to wade into primary fights out of fear that such involvement could anger tea party activists already chafing under the yoke of the party's mainstream leaders. Today's results will validate whether that was the right strategy or not.
5. A Test in the Tarheel State: National Democrats have insisted since the start of the 2010 election cycle that Sen. Richard Burr (R) is entirely beatable. And yet, they struggled for months to recruit someone who they believed to be a top-tier candidate into the race.
Eventually former state Sen. Cal Cunningham, who had turned down the race once, decided to run but he joined a field that already included Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and attorney Ken Lewis.
Cunningham's late start may be too much for him to overcome as polling suggests Marshall, who has been in her current post since 1996, will be the top Democratic vote-getter today.
At issue is whether Cunningham (or Lewis) can keep Marshall under the 40 percent threshold needed to avoid a June 22 runoff. National Democrats believe that additional six weeks would give Cunningham the time he needs to overcome Marshall's name identification edge although his poor fundraising over the first three months of the year complicates that notion.
If Marshall wins today, watch to see how the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee reacts. It's tough -- make that impossible -- for them to argue that Marshall was their choice all along but if polls show her within single digits of Burr it will also be hard for the DSCC to walk away from one of their few opportunities to play offense against a Republican incumbent.
May 4, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: Morning Fix
Save & Share: Previous: A few Fix Monday must-reads
Next: The Times Square arrest and the politics of national security
Posted by: TheGlobalizer | May 4, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: phillyfanatic | May 4, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: leapin | May 4, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: jdi123 | May 4, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: jothomp | May 4, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: reason5 | May 4, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: margaretmeyers | May 4, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: steelers_rule123 | May 4, 2010 10:27 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: GJonahJameson | May 4, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: drindl | May 4, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: mark_in_austin | May 4, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: allenridge | May 4, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: jhpbriton | May 4, 2010 9:10 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: drindl | May 4, 2010 8:34 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: AndyR3 | May 4, 2010 8:23 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: simonsays1 | May 4, 2010 8:09 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: parkerfl1 | May 4, 2010 7:44 AM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.